We talked to Bojan Blažica, co-founder of Tomappo a personal gardening assistant and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Bojan Blažica: We are doing well; we have a lot of time to spend with our children, which we love. We have bonded a lot and had many creative ideas. We also engaged in many outdoor activities, including gardening. However, after a few months of babysitting, teaching a first-grader and at the same time working for our company, we appreciate that the kindergartens and schools are open again.
The other team members also made interesting adjustments: one moved to the weekend house in the mountains to be able to do sports, one moved with the family from an apartment to the parent’s house with a big garden. We all tried to make lemonade from lemons, and we were quite lucky to be able to do so. None of our close ones got sick, so we just took the necessary precautions and tried to live our lives as normally as possible.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Tomappo.
Bojan Blažica: I am an electrical engineer and a PhD in ICT science. I have always been interested in how people interact with computers and how computers can help with the issues in their everyday life. So my research has been on user interfaces, tools to help the ageing population etc.
Then one day, I was with a few of my friends at my parents’ house, and my father was gardening. So, the discussion began about his methods (him being a mechanical engineer and making a very scientific approach to all gardening tasks) and how all of this knowledge and processes could be digitalized. This is how the Tomappo app begun. We presented the idea at the startup weekend and found out that many people were interested in working on it. So not long after that, we founded a company and issued our first release of the app.
How does Tomappo innovate?
Well, two of our team members are researchers with a PhD (Physics, ICT), so developing new digital tools to help gardeners spend less time planning and more time in the garden is a great challenge for us. Knowing the pains of our users and being novice gardeners ourselves, we are happy to look for solutions that are not purely academic but are put to use almost instantly.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Bojan Blažica: Being an ICT company, we were already working remotely and also, our business is running online. So from this point of view, the pandemic did not affect us much. There was even an increase of interest in gardening, and we offered new products to facilitate the effects of a pandemic, such as seed exchange platform and educational webinars.
On the other hand, B2B communication is much more effective in person, so we were sorry to miss some important shows that could be a boost in our growth. However, digitization was a hot topic even before the Covid pandemic, and now its pace has gotten even faster. This made our point much easier when presenting the importance of digital tools to our B2B clients.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Bojan Blažica: The first part of the pandemic occurred right at the beginning of the gardening season. So all the educational events about gardening, such as how to cope with pests in the garden or how to prune fruit trees, were cancelled. So we hosted webinars with nationally known guests to facilitate the lack of events, and the response was great, and valuable discussions developed.
We also developed a seed exchange platform that enables the gardeners that produce their own seeds to exchange them remotely. The exchanges were usually events where everyone would bring their seeds and, at the same time, a social meeting. Following the restrictions, our platform provided an easy to use tool for exchange and a nice overview of the available offer.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Bojan Blažica: Many apps support one or another segment of vegetable gardening. Our advantage is a great user experience (4.5 on Google play) and combining all the important segments in one app so that the user has all the necessary information in one place. Of course, we have many plans for improvements, but let us keep that for another time.
Your final thoughts?
Bojan Blažica: We want to contribute to a healthier, sustainable future by doing what we love – combining nature and ICT. We work to make Tomappo the best gardening app possible, and we hope that it will grow and support hobby gardeners around the world one day!
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